Colonial Greenway Close to Completing 15- Mile Loop

based on a presentation by Mamaroneck Town Councilwoman Nancy Seligson

(January 11, 2006) Mamaroneck Town Councilwoman Nancy Seligson has been working for years along with many others to turn patches of green, short paths and longer walks into a 15-mile continuous greenway loop. On Monday, January 8 she brought good news to the Larchmont Village Board: the 15-mile loop to be known as the Colonial Greenway is almost complete.

So, what do you need from us, asked Larchmont Mayor Liz Feld. Had she appeared as originally scheduled last month, Councilwoman Seligson would have been asking Larchmont to support requests for funds to complete remaining stretches in the loop. Although some rough spots remain, Westchester County recently provided $500K to close a large gap in New Rochelle.

At this point, Larchmont just needs to be proud of the effort, said Ms. Seligson. More maintenance, trail signage, and maps are in the works. Mamaroneck Town is looking for a small Community Development Block Grant to close another gap. But the goal is close to being attained.

Colonial Greenway
The Colonial Greenway Trail Map: click for larger image as PDF.

Some History

“The history of the original Westchester Greenway trail is interesting,” noted Ms. Seligson. She told the following tale:

1976: Thirty years ago, John Varvayanis, a high school biology teacher, wanted to hike between the many green areas near his home. After getting permission to walk over properties that linked the open spaces, Mr. Varvayanis returned to ask for one-time permission for his college alumni hiking club to trek the 8-mile loop. When the answer was yes, he realized a permanent pathway was possible with support of the private landowners. Over the next several years, working with state, county and municipal officials, nature conservancies and civic groups, Mr. Varvayanis established a trail system that runs through municipal parklands, county trailways, and nature preserves.

May 22, 1988 marked the opening of the Westchester Greenway Trail, a monumental achievement by Mr. Varvayanis that connected the Larchmont Reservoir Conservancy, Leatherstocking and Sheldrake Trails in Mamaroneck with Ward Acres Park in New Rochelle, Saxon Woods Park owned by Westchester County, and the Weinberg Nature Center maintained by the Scarsdale Audubon Society. The Town of Mamaroneck’s summer crew helped create a permanent trail which extended the Leatherstocking Trail past Old White Plains Road and through the Village of Mamaroneck. The trail eventually connected to Saxon Woods Park at Gedney Pond.

Here is the more recent history. Currently, the Westchester Greenway Trail is not part of the New York State Greenway, some trails are no longer maintained, and the pathways no longer connect. The Colonial Greenway will close these gaps, and develop common signage, maintenance standards, maps and logos that are so needed for the loop.

In the spring of 2001, Councilwoman Seligson learned of grant opportunities through the Hudson River Valley Greenway Act. Basically, joining the Greenway allows a municipality to be eligible for additional state funding and extra consideration for its grant proposals. “That sounded good to me for the Town of Mamaroneck,” said Ms. Seligson. “I thought that our area could use Greenway funding to improve our existing trail system. I walk and run on the Leatherstocking and surrounding trails and recognized the need for trail upgrades, standard maintenance and signs, and better blazes.

On July 18, 2001, the Mamaroneck Town Board passed a resolution requesting to join the Greenway. Councilwoman wrote the surrounding municipalities with connecting or close trails and asked them to join the Greenway.

Since 2001, Mamaroneck has been working with New Rochelle, Scarsdale, the Village of Mamaroneck, and Westchester County on this project. Larchmont Trustee Marlene Kolbert has attended many of the meetings. Although the trails are not physically in the Village of Larchmont, Larchmont owns the Larchmont Reservoir and trails therein. Eastchester is also interested in the project.

The Colonial Greenway project aims to enhance existing trails to create a 15-mile loop. This would be the longest continual path loop in the metropolitan area. “The runners clubs are very excited about it,” said Ms. Seligson. “There is a core group of representatives from each municipality that regularly meets to push the project forward. Noam Branson, Mayor of New Rochelle, has been very involved.”

What was needed? The group determined the basic outlines of the loop, worked with the county using GPS (global positioning systems) to create exact geographic locations, created a map, researched information for and created a brochure, created designs for the logo and blazes, researched and determined design and locations for signs, identified areas needing capital improvements, created capital improvement budgets, and applied for and received $15,000 from the Greenway to pay for signs and blazes. “One of the most difficult discussions was deciding on the name of the trail system,” said Ms. Seligson. .

“This past year we have been talking with the county planning and parks departments about funding and it’s been frustrating,” said the councilwoman. Though, officials were supportive, a funding mechanism was lacking. . The project needs $42,000 in Mamaroneck Town to bridge a gap in the trail on Old White Plains Road and another. $120,000 in New Rochelle to build catwalks and traffic safety measures. Westchester needs to improve maintenance on county owned trail as well.

“These improvements are required before we can officially open the trail,” said Ms. Seligson. Now, “after many fits and starts I think we finally have definite funding. “

“We hope to have an official trail opening in spring 2007,” she concluded.